Mason's $7,000 Campaign Donation to School Board Slate at Center of Debate
Councilwoman Beth Mason donated $7,000 to the Move Forward school board campaign, which is not in accordance with a local ordinance.
A $7,000 donation by Councilwoman Beth Mason to the Move Forward Board of Education ticket is at the heart of a political debate in Hoboken.
Because a local ordinance, which was passed by the Hoboken city council, states that political action committees can't donate more than $500 to local elections, Councilman Ravi Bhalla has maintained that Mason is breaking the law by donating more.
The thought behind the ordinance, Bhalla said, is to "try to limit the influence of money in politics."
The issue was first raised by Bhalla during a recent council meeting.
Mason, in turn, maintains that Hoboken's ordinance is pre-empted by state law, and therefore isn't following it.
In an e-mail blast to constituents, Mason wrote, "In an effort to entrench the Board of Education Majority, the political bosses in City Hall enacted an illegal ordinance to restrict my donations to the Move Forward team."
The Move Forward team is made up of Anthony Oland, Felice Vazquez and Elizabeth Markevitch. On election day, they'll be trying to gain a majority of the school board which is currently in hands of Kids First.
Kids First has traditionally been supported by Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
Letters were sent from the city clerk to Move Forward Treasurer Frank Raia as well as Mason's husband Ricky Mason, to notify them that the donation is in violation of the ordinance and that the money should be returned within 30 days.
This is not the first time Bhalla and Mason are at odds about campaign finance law. In 2010, the councilmembers fired allegations at each other, in wake of an article in The Star Ledger which alleged that Bhalla had violated the spirit of the state's pay-to-play laws.
In an e-mailed statement to Patch, Mason responded, "Local government does not have a right to legislate political vendettas. I fought City Hall all the way to Supreme Court when they tried to make it very difficult for Hoboken residents to obtain public information and participate in public meetings. I will fight for the rights of Hoboken residents to support whomever they choose."
Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage donated $1,000 to Move Forward, which also wouldn't be allowed under Hoboken's ordinance.